Projector Reviews

Guide to the 2012 Home Theater Projector Comparison Report-4

The Bad News: Home Theater Projector Addiction

There had to be some bad – or less than great news as you embark on your first projector quest! The bad news is simply:

Most of you folks start out as “Typical Consumers”, just looking for a great experience in your home. But many “typical consumers” get the bug, addicted, and find themselves as “Enthusiasts”. When a “typical consumer” (you?) brings that first projector home, and gets it properly set up, they are generally amazed.

A projector purchase will almost always exceeds your expectations. The problem is, many get so enthralled with how good it looks, that the next thing they know, they are looking into how to buy an even better one to further improve the experience.  . Bingo – instant Enthusiast!

And you never, know, that Enthusiast might even become a Purist!

The Bottom Line

You might just want to think about where you are right now, of these three types, and whether it is your nature to stay that way. The temptation to become an enthusiast is definitely there for many. Few become true purists.

If you have a good understanding of how this might play out for you, it can help you tremendously, in making the right purchasing and setup decisions.

Consider: Let’s say your budget for a projector is $1500 – $2500. As a typical consumer, most of the projectors in this range will provide you with a great experience. Most likely you’ll pick one out that fits the budget, and is best at the things you consider most important (a brighter one, if you want a larger screen), one with great black levels because you are really into sci-fi, and horror flicks (tons of dark scenes), and has other features you consider important.

On the other hand, if you think, “yup, this is going to be fun, and yup, I’ll probably be hooked, and want to improve my system every couple/few years as prices fall, and quality further improves,” then it probably should affect your purchase decision. You might decide, for example, that, “you know what, I suspect Projector B will do a perfectly fine job, but I can see where what I really want is projector D, to be truly happy, but it’s out of my budget.” In a case like that, you might decide to start with one of the least expensive home theater projectors that meets your initial needs. This would allow you to save some bucks so that you can upgrade sooner.

Remember, prices keep falling, and performance keeps improving – don’t you love “high tech”?

Second guessing your projector purchase decision.

I rarely hear from anyone who says – “I bought this projector, and it’s great, but, you know, I probably should have bought that less expensive one, I could have been happy with that one too.”

What I do hear a lot of is the opposite: “I was looking at Projector A – a lower cost/lower performance, and Projector D – more money, but a step up in performance. I bought Projector A, and months later, I’m still thinking I made a mistake – I should have gotten the one I really wanted.”

Know yourself! – Where do you see yourself, in this quest, a year from now, three years, five years? Still on your first projector, or…

The other big question comes up when making a final choice between two good projectors at different price points:

Six months from now, will I be unhappy that I didn’t spend a bit more money to get the projector I liked better, but didn’t really “need”?

and conversely:

Six months from now, will I be sorry I didn’t save money, instead of buying the more expensive projector. 

I’ll bet you know which scenario is more likely the way you think!  If you ask your self these questions, it should help you to “choose wisely!”  -art

Understanding your room environment

First and foremost: Ambient light is the enemy of all home theater projector systems. A 50″ LCDTV can withstand a fair amount sunlight pouring into your room, but a home theater projector and screen, typically cannot.

Movies are intended to be watched in dark rooms – a “cave” as it were. Dark scenes start washing out, with even the dimmest lights on. You’d be amazed at what a huge difference a 20 watt light bulb on and hitting your screen from the back of your room, can do to a gorgeous image.

Sports and general TV and HDTV viewing is normally done with some lights on. We don’t generally like to have their room pitch black for a sitcom, or The Tonight Show, or your favorite sporting event. That’s OK, most projectors have what we describe as “best” and “brightest” modes (and several in between). In the brighter modes, you sacrifice some picture quality, but, that’s ok, what’s left normally still looks great. (And do you really care how perfect skin tones are when watching football – I think not!). Keep in mind that some projectors can muster as much as three times the brightness in their brightest modes, but most projectors increase brightness 50% to 100%, and some only increase as little as 10 or 20%.

That is why some projectors are best for those only interested in movie viewing, and others much better for a wide mix of content and lighting levels.

Windows

As you plan your room for your projector and screen, a good first question is: Do you have any windows? If so, decide what you are going to do about that if you plan to use your projector during the daytime. Ideally, you’ll want some form of blackout shades. If your shades turn out to motorized, like mine, some have side channels to prevent light from leaking in around the edges of the windows, others do not.

Even without the channels a good setup with blackout shades, drapes, etc., will limit the light coming in to very watchable, if not great levels for movie viewing.

Walls, Ceiling, and Floors

A perfect home theater has flat black walls, ceilings and floors. That said, even those that have that option, probably won’t go all black. That’s OK, the trick is to get the whole room as dark as possible in terms of reflective surfaces. 50 years ago, movie theaters were so dark, that in the moments nothing was on the screen, you’d be lucky to see your hands in front of your face. Today, due to fire laws, movie theaters just aren’t as dark. Here in California, there are sconces on the walls, emergency lighting signs and emergency lighting on the steps, etc. I can certainly get my own theater, which doesn’t have black anything, darker than anything at the local cinemaplex.